Women at the start of the 20th century

Women in the early 20th century

À DAY

A long-time French teacher, Isabelle Hébert, a graduate in literature and mother of four children, let herself be carried away by the history of rural Quebec at the turn of the last century to write her first historical series, Fates. Page after page, she brings to life the daily life of women who, trapped by the secrets that society then repressed, had to find subtle ways to get out of the game.

In Quebec , in 1907, the Roy family spent peaceful days in the small village of Saint-Simon-des-Neiges. Their daily life is punctuated by the seasons, the tasks and chores associated with it, the work of the land and the education of children. 

One day, Father Boucher asks them to temporarily take in a young girl who has just secretly given birth to an illegitimate child whom she has been forced to give up for adoption. 

Charitable woman, pregnant, Paule Roy agrees to welcome Agathe Senécal, without knowing how much this decision will upset their daily lives. Their widowed neighbour, Edmond, finds Agathe to his liking.

Meanwhile, the Senécal family is forced to leave the village of Saint-Rémy-de-Lérey when Agathe's youngest, Célina, becomes pregnant too. The parents decide to go and rebuild their lives in the United States, imagining that one day they will be able to repatriate their daughters and offer them a fresh start. But that's without counting on the budding relationship between Agathe and Edmond.

Fan of historical novels

Isabelle Hébert portrays Quebec Catholic society very well. – thinker from the beginning of the 20th century. She recounts the genesis of Destins, in an interview. 

“I am a great reader first and foremost and I really like historical novels, especially those of Michel David, which take place in the countryside,” she says.

“  I had read At the edge of the river, where the character of Catherine will give birth in town. I wondered what would happen if her father hadn't wanted to take her back. What options did he have left?  She began her research and decided that this would be the subject of her first novel.

His grandmother

“I grew up with a grandmother who was around me and often spoke to me about the time when she was born – 1909. She told me how it was at school, how it was, life, in his time. I thought there was a lot of benevolence and I wanted to explore that. I wanted to show what it can give, benevolence, generosity, the world which is really good. Suddenly it could inspire someone?  »

The role of women 

The novelist talks about the role of women at the time. 

“ We often think that they were the slaves of their husbands and of the clergy. Yes, in part. But the women who did best were the ones who figured out how to talk to people. Who had understood that we can succeed in convincing without confronting. It was especially these women who managed to create a peaceful and livable environment for themselves. 

“We always have the impression that living in the countryside was misery… But we realize that it was less misery to live in the countryside than to live in the city. At least in the countryside the prices weren't going up and it was all in your garden and in your buildings. ”

She wanted to show that it was possible to have a good life, at that time, despite all the tasks and constraints. 

Her grandmother, she notes, thought it was important for her to know that things weren't always easy for women. 

  • Isabelle Hébert is a mother of four children.
  • She graduated from the University of Montreal in literature and taught French for several years before becoming a massage therapist.
  • The second volume of Destins will be published in the fall of 2022.

EXTRACT

 The Roy family lived in a pretty white house at the end of the 3rd range of the village of Saint-Simon-des-Neiges. The two-storey house sat at the center of the Roy family land. It was Joseph, Jean's father, who had cleared this land with his hands towards the end of the 1870s, then built this house. He had raised his family there alongside his wife Berthe, who had been dead for ten years now. Together, Joseph and Berthe had seven children: Jean, Amédé, Alphonse, Arsène, Armand, Marie-Rose and Catherine. »